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December 20, 2012 09:59 PM

Digital Distractions

Back in the day, students used to go to the library to do their research for homework assignments. Thanks to the Internet and other forms of technology, students have changed their studying habits. But that's not necessarily a good thing?

West Central Freshman Benjamin Miles admits he was never the best student, especially when it came to his studies and that's partially because of today's technology.

“I will get a lot of texts when I'm doing homework, it's hard for me to focus sometimes," Benjamin said.

The same was true for his older sister, Emily who is now a freshman in college. 

"When your phone says you got a text message, you're like, ‘oh I can do this’ and you never end up focusing for more than four or five minutes on the actual content because your phone is always going off or you're on the computer and Facebook messages are going on," Emily said.

Emily didn't get terrible grades, but now knows she could have done better. Their parents say they tried everything to help them, especially Benjamin.

“He couldn't stay organized and get his stuff done. We would talk to the teachers and work with them trying to keep him on task, they were trying to help, but couldn't seem to keep him on task," mother Carol Miles said. 

The Miles family isn't alone. According to a recent study, 87 percent of the teachers surveyed say technology is creating an "easily distracted generation with short attention spans." Sixty-four percent say today's digital technologies "do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

“I felt like I was fumbling around with it. I felt like I needed some help and sometimes you just need somebody else to tell your kids what to do and they'll listen better," Carol said.

Miles enrolled both their kids at the Sylvan Learning Center to take a course on how to study.

“When folks reach out to us, they are quite frustrated," marketing director of the Sylvan Learning Center Audra Staebell said.

Staebell says today's kids have a hard time focusing when it comes to studying.

“Digital distractions, when you talk about that it encompasses a lot of things, it's games, it's music, it's YouTube, it's texting, it's our phones, it's Facebook and Twitter, kids are constantly bombarded and that's part of their life," Staebell said.

And it's not going away either, making a challenge for today's parents.

"I'll hear a lot of 'mom, you know, I studied until three in the morning last night,’" Staebell said.

Staebell says it's not about quantity, but quality that makes the biggest difference.  

She suggests parents set very clear and simple rules to follow; put the distractions away, prioritize and don't be afraid to take breaks.

Both Emily and Benjamin say that's what they learned at Sylvan and it's helped them get better grades.

“If I want to do better, I have to actually commit, okay I'm going to study for 20 minutes, my friends aren't even going to notice if I don't reply," Emily said.

“I'm doing a lot better this year, better than I thought," Benjamin said.

For the first time ever, Benjamin made the A Honor Roll and mom isn't only proud, she's relieved.

“It was like night and day difference," Carol said.

And that’s a difference she now shares with other parents.

“When we teach students good study habits and they learn I can do this, I'm confident in it, they tend to be better focused, you can't have a good study habit without learning it first of all," Staebell said.

For a closer look at the Pew Research study click here.

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